Augusta County first in Virginia to prohibit fracking

Virginia's Augusta County includes sections of Shenandoah National Park. (© Robert Llewellyn)

In a nearly unanimous decision, the August County Board of Supervisors clearly and confidently voted on Wednesday night to prohibit fracking. As other Virginia localities grapple with how to address risks from fracking and industrial gas development in their own communities, Augusta’s decision highlights local leaders’ option to simply prohibit the practice. The County also added special use permit conditions for any traditional drilling that would not use fracking.

Former Augusta supervisor Nancy Sorrells thanked the board for, "putting our most precious natural resource at the top of its list of priorities. This decision is another example of the strong support from our leaders to protect the drinking water of our citizens."

Augusta County’s decision follows the December 2016 release of the Environmental Protection Agency’s final report that documents the various ways that fracking and gas drilling can and have led to water contamination. In some cases, it has rendered private drinking water well totally unusable. The report–which is the most complete compilation to date of national scientific data on the issue–was intended to provide “the scientific foundation for local decision makers, industry, and communities that are looking to protect public health and drinking water resources and make more informed decisions about hydraulic fracturing activities.”

“We applaud citizens and local officials who are taking a long, hard look at fracking and discussing what is best for their communities,” said SELC Attorney Kristin Davis. “Augusta County is an example for other Virginia communities also thinking about how to best address the threats, whether through stringent restrictions like that of King George County or an outright prohibition like Augusta County’s. It’s clear that no one is in a better position than local citizens and governments to make that decision.”

Other Virginia counties are also exploring their options to address the risks of fracking. In Westmoreland County, which overlies the Taylorsville Basin, there is strong citizen opposition to fracking and calls for a prohibition. The Westmoreland County Supervisors are now considering whether they should prohibit fracking or enact stringent restrictions.

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